This is [John Green's] best work yet. Narrator Hazel Grace Lancaster, 16, is (miraculously) alive thanks to an experimental drug that is keeping her thyroid cancer in check. In an effort to get her to have a life (she withdrew from school at 13), her parents insist she attend a support group at a local church, which Hazel characterizes in an older-than-her-years voice as a "rotating cast of characters in various states of tumor-driven unwellness." Despite Hazel's reluctant presence, it's at the support group that she meets Augustus Waters, a former basketball player who has lost a leg to cancer. The connection is instant, and a (doomed) romance blossoms. There is a road trip—Augustus, whose greatest fear is not of death but that his life won't amount to anything, uses his "Genie Foundation" wish to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet the author of her favorite book. Come to think of it, Augustus is pretty damn hot. So maybe there's not a new formula at work so much as a gender swap. But this iteration is smart, witty, profoundly sad, and full of questions worth asking, even those like "Why me?" that have no answer. Ages 14–up.
"It's not fair," complains 16-year-old Hazel from Indiana. "The world," says Gus, her new friend from her teen support group, "is not a wish-granting factory." Indeed, life is not fair; Hazel and Gus both have cancer, Hazel's terminal. Despite this, she has a burning obsession: to find out what happens to the characters after the end of her favorite novel. An Imperial Affliction by Dutch author Peter Van Houten is about a girl named Anna who has cancer, and it ends in mid-sentence (presumably to indicate a life cut short), a stylistic choice that Hazel appreciates but the ambiguity drives her crazy. Did the "Dutch Tulip Man" marry Anna's mom? What happened to Sisyphus the Hamster? Hazel asks her questions via email and Van Houten responds, claiming that he can only tell her the answers in person. When she was younger, Hazel used her wish-one granted to sick children from The Genie Foundation—by going to Disney World. Gus decides to use his to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet the author. Like most things in life, the trip doesn't go exactly as anticipated. Van Houten is a disappointment, but Hazel, who has resisted loving Gus because she doesn't want to be the grenade that explodes in his life when she dies, finally allows herself to love. Once again Green offers a well-developed cast of characters capable of both reflective thought and hilarious dialogue. With his trademark humor, lovable parents, and exploration of big-time challenges, The Fault in Our Stars is an achingly beautiful story about life and loss. —Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY
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